game-based learning

5 ways educational games improve learning, according to teachers

A new study cites impressive learning gains and increased classroom engagement when educational games are incorporated into existing instruction.

When teachers used digital educational games in the classroom, students raised test scores by more than half a letter grade in only three weeks, according to a study from researchers at Vanderbilt University and partners at Legends of Learning, a research-driven educational game platform.

The new research, published by the Journal of the Learning Sciences, demonstrates the benefits of game-based learning for students when compared to students who had no access to such games.

Substantial Integration of Typical Educational Games into Extended Curricula” involved more than 1,000 students of 13 teachers in 10 diverse urban, suburban and rural schools in seven states.

Did you know that it’s Digital Citizenship Week? Click here to learn more!

The educators integrated a standards-aligned set of 55 typical educational games into their curricula. Each teacher taught at least one class with the games and one class without.

The research found students in the classes with the games outperformed their peers on essay and multiple choice questions.

(Next page: 5 benefits of educational games, straight from teachers)

Special education students involved in the study authored lengthier responses to open-ended questions, displayed greater confidence in the subject matter after playing the games, and achieved more than a whole standard deviation difference.

After the study established that educational games must engage students and must product meaningful and substantial learning outcomes, it also revealed that teachers cited five specific outcomes achieved by using the educational games:
1. Deeper content games supported in-depth learning, developing investigative, critical thinking, and problem solving skills
2. The subset of quiz-style games reinforced lessons and helped review material
3. Different types of game play simulated interest and engagement, particularly in students prone to being off-task
4. Games prompted student-led discussions, collaboration, and the sharing of knowledge
5. Simple and complex games increased confidence and content mastery

Teachers said they would like to use the educational games for more than 30 percent of their classroom time, citing the way the games supplemented and strengthened existing curricula. Two-thirds of teachers said the educational games made traditional instruction more effective.

The study also found:

  • Increased engagement: Teachers reported dramatic increases in engagement among students who learned with the games.
  • Enthusiastic teachers: Ninety-two percent of teachers who used the education games said they would like to use similar games again because of the impact on student performance and engagement.
  • Improved attention spans: Teachers said students who normally were off-task became more focused on their learning.

“The results highlight the potential of digital games for enhancing instruction, particularly in light of the teachers strongly positive experiences and interest in continuing to use games like these in the future,” said researcher and co-author Douglas Clark, professor, Vanderbilt University’s College of Education and Human Development. “This study is important because it is based on data collected with a large set of games used by teachers in extended curricula across multiple school districts.”

Sign up for our K-12 newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Laura Ascione

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at

eSchool News uses cookies to improve your experience. Visit our Privacy Policy for more information.